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Nato Secretary General, George Robertson
Nato Secretary General, George Robertson
Secretary General, NATO
DECEMBER 2nd, 2001

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

Later this week the 19 member states of Nato will be sending their foreign ministers to a crucial meeting, on the agenda a proposal to discuss bringing Russia into a closer relationship with the alliance, in some shape or form, and the Secretary General,

LORD ROBERTSON went to see President Vladimir Putin recently and he joins me right now. George, good morning.

Good morning David, a pleasure to be with you.

And vice versa. What in fact is the situation now with Russia - we've heard some very encouraging things, of closer relationships and possible membership?

No, not possible membership. President Putin has made it clear he is not going to stand in line to apply for membership of Nato but what he does want is a closer and deeper relationship with Nato and that's reciprocated on our side. It's some 60 years since Russia and the West were combined against a common enemy. The first time round it fell apart because of Stalin and the Cold War, we've now got a historic opportunity and I think that many of the leaders of Nato believe that this is the time to grasp that opportunity and push it forward.

Yes, it's interesting, even surprising, that you said such a firm no there to that question because while he did say those things about not standing in a queue - I'm not standing in a queue for anything - then he also said it depends what's on offer. That sounds more positive than you were just then.

Well, the fact is that he doesn't want to make an application for Nato membership and Nato membership is not offered to anybody but, you know, I can't tell what's going to happen in the long term future. The last ten years would have been very difficult to predict ten years ago. All I'm saying at the moment is that Russia does not intend to apply for membership but there is this opportunity for much closer and deeper co-operation and that's what we're exploring just now. And I got a strong sense in Moscow from President Putin that he wants to change attitudes towards Nato, not just in the Kremlin but in Russia as a whole, and its attitudes are not strictures that will determine how deep and close that co-operation is going to be but we're moving, at the moment, quite fast, and that's the way we should because the stakes are high and I think everyone wants to take advantage of the opportunity, one of the few good opportunities that has come from the dreadful events of the 11th of September.

In that case George, what people wonder is this, that now that Russia is no longer an enemy, and is becoming an ally and a friend, what is - what's Nato for any more? I mean who are we aiming against? Is it obsolete?

Well Nato was never aimed against anything, it was a defensive alliance set up in the face of a known and very large Soviet threat, but after 40 years of peacekeeping in that mode, the Cold War ended and Nato became very much of a peacemaking organisation. In the Balkans especially, in Bosnia first and then Kosovo, Nato was the only organisation there to bring peace and stability to a part of Europe where instability would have spread like wildfire. I believe that in the 21st Century Nato's role, acknowledged by Russia, is very much in a, in a peace-shaping mode. Our links with the 27 countries of the partnership for peace, our links with the northern Mediterranean countries, our close co-operation with Russia and Ukraine, all of that is contributing to a wider degree of stability in the wider continent of Europe and I think that is a very significant role that we can continue to play.

Would you be worried if the United States unilaterally tore up the ABM Treaty from 1972? Would that concern you? It's possible.

Well of course it's a bilateral treaty between Russia and the United States so it's not something that other people have a particular decisive say in. What I would say is that we're now acknowledging, along with Russia, that there are huge problems of proliferation, especially in areas of weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons - and the means by which some states have got to deliver these terrible weapons across huge distances. So I think it's right to question the relevance of a treaty that was signed 30 years ago at the height of the Cold War, and in circumstances where Russia and America consider themselves to be allies against international terrorism and perhaps partners against other threats as well.

And just in conclusion George, Nato was famous for its support at the beginning of the war on terrorism, attack on one is an attack on all and so on - have things gone roughly as you would have hoped?

Absolutely. I never hoped that we would see a day when Article 5 of the Washington Treaty was invoked - that's the first time in Nato's history that we've said an attack on one country is an attack on all. It was a very powerful political signal at that time and operationally it means that the Nato AWAX planes are flying in defensive formation over the United States of America, that the ships of the standing Naval Force Mediterranean are on high alert, we've given facilities for the United States in its coalition against international terrorism at the moment and we remain in reserve to do what ever is necessary. So Nato, after 52 years, has invoked the Washington Treaty for the best of all possible reasons and I think it's underlined how relevant Nato is 52 years on - just as relevant as it was in 1949 when it was created to protect the western world.

George, thank you very much for joining us this morning, we appreciate it.

Good to be with you.

George Robinson. No to the idea of Russia as a member of Nato.


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